There is no questioning the English language’s role as an international communications tool. Being proficient can revolutionize a person’s professional status. For example, research commissioned by the British Council found that people in the Middle East and North Africa who speak English can earn up to three times more than their non-English-speaking colleagues.

Furthermore, some analysts believe that we’re witnessing a subtle shift in the way English fits in to global marketplace. Education First, a corganized a grand-scale English Proficiency Index research initiative, believes that English is no longer an indicator of elite social and economic status. It’s transforming into “a basic skill for the entire workforce.”

Students at Pace ELI

Pic: Students at Pace ELI.

Even with the rise of non-English speaking world powers, such as China, English is expected to remain the language of international commerce. The British Council reports that around 375 million people speak English as their first language (roughly half the number of native Mandarin speakers). Yet, even now, conservative estimates indicate that more than a billion non-native speakers possess strong English-speaking skills. This figure is expected to double by the year 2020.

And so even as we enter into what economists are calling the ‘Asian Century’, it appears that English – rather than an Asian language – will remain the language of business, politics and international commerce. In fact, Benjamin Herscovitch, a policy analyst at the Australian think tank, Centre for Independent Studies, has even asserted that English is becoming an Asian language in its own right.

Asian students head overseas to master the English language
As these trends solidify, record numbers of Asian students are traveling overseas to earn undergraduate and postgraduate credentials. Without discounting the high quality and prestige of a Western education, it bears noting that the opportunity to master English as a second language is a strong motivator as well.

CESL students on campus

Pic: CESL students on campus.

However, English language proficiency (or lack thereof) also works against some international students who are otherwise highly qualified to study at top universities in the West. This has prompted some universities to roll out English preparatory courses that can help students who need slightly higher TOEFL scores, better oral presentation skills and other language-related abilities meet important benchmarks before they begin their university experience.

English language programs are designed to prepare students for an upcoming academic career. The best language institutes offer highly customizable coursework, allowing students to focus on specific study skills – such as gleaning as much as possible from English-language academic tests, optimizing listening during lectures, writing academic papers or navigating Western university library systems.

Global Focus Week at Liberty University

Pic: Global Focus Week at Liberty University.

Some of these courses even serve as bridge programs, offering undergraduate credit that can be transferred to an ongoing university degree program. Other universities offer conditional acceptance to applicants, so long as they enroll in an English language program first and achieve satisfying marks. In other words, students proceed with university applications while looking into improving their proficiency.

The following are among the leading English language programs for Asian students:

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY – CENTER FOR ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE
The Center for English as a Second Language (CESL) was established in 1966 and has many years of experience teaching English to international students interested in pursuing an education in the US and in improving their language skills for personal or professional reasons. The center is housed within the Department of Linguistics, where it benefits from current research and methodology in the field of second language acquisition, the youthful enthusiasm of linguistics TAs and rigorous academic standards. Read the full profile here…

CESL student group

Pic: CESL student group.

PACE UNIVERSITY – ENGLISH LANGUAGE INSTITUTE
The Pace University English Language Institute (ELI) provides international students, visitors and immigrants to the US the opportunity to improve their English-language skills. Each program takes a unique angle of approach, with coursework designed for up-and-coming undergraduate students, on-the-job professionals and postgraduate students at upper levels of specialization. Read the full profile here…

Pace ELI

Pic: Pace ELI.

LIBERTY UNIVERSITY – ENGLISH LANGUAGE INSTITUTE
Liberty University is the world’s largest Evangelical Christian university, and it offers advanced English-language preparatory courses for university-bound students. It was founded in 1971 in the US state of Virginia, and its academic programs are built upon a firm commitment to moral character and values. Read the full profile here…

Liberty University ELI students

Pic: Liberty University ELI students.

UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA – ENGLISH LANGUAGE CENTRE
Canada’s English Language Centre at the University of Victoria has been in operation since 1970, and it currently welcomes 2,500 students each year. UVic is a world-leader in higher education, regularly ranking in the global top 1 percent. The English Language Centre helps international students fully integrate with the program by coordinating with host families and assigning other Canadian students as cultural liaisons.

CENTRAL WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY – UNIVERSITY ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE
Located in the western US, CWU’s University English as a Second Language (UESL) pairs students with American conversation partners to provide practice outside of class. International students enrolled in UESL live in university dormitories with other American students, as well. Special courses related to film-making, literature, business, drama and computers are also offered through UESL.